Charles Gave, who was born in French-ruled Aleppo, Syria, memorializes the Middle East of his childhood and reflects on how much has changed:
Most of the Christian sects had lived in the region since long before the Muslim conquest, and felt a perfect moral right to live in what was, after all, their home. In the Iraqi capital Baghdad, for example, half the 18th-century population was Christian. . . . Throughout the region, the Jews were absolutely essential to society and commerce. . . . [I]n all the great historic cities of the region—Cairo, Istanbul, Damascus, Aleppo—Jewish communities made up the network through which different peoples traded with each other.
Each community was an intrinsic part of the social system, and the result was a diverse and resilient society. Of course, once in a while there were problems, such as the Damascus pogroms at the end of the 19th century. But the authorities had little patience with trouble-makers, and quickly restored order.
Today, however, for the first time in history, there are no longer any Jews on the southern shores of the Mediterranean and, outside Israel, few in the Levant. Christians of all denominations have either disappeared, or are under severe pressure, with the Egyptian Copts facing daily attacks. The old social order has broken down completely.